I think people are overthinking the whole “tag” business on WordPress. Tags serve two purposes for a blogger they either categorize their posts or they get their posts seen. How tags serve your audience is a different matter and that is where bloggers seem to miss the mark. I’ll explain what I know of tags.
People ask “how do I know what tags are trending?” The “overall WordPress Reader” (when I say overall I mean the general river of posts made by all bloggers that blog on WordPress and not an individual’s reader that their subscribed posts go to) always has posts being added to it and you can “guess” what tags are being used. Remember the importance of tags in connection with networking on WordPress as a platform is the ability to use the search bar to essentially “find new blogs” to connect with.
This is so you aren’t stuck reading the same bloggers over and over off your personal WordPress reader. Tags are how you find people just like you would search for terms on Google.com. The more specific you are the more likely you will find the posts related to that topic, but the pool of bloggers for that subject matter will thin out. General tags will host a wide range of posts from bloggers writing and publishing about everything. Examples of these would be blog, WordPress, art, general, featured, random, post, writing, publishing, blogging, 2014, personal, poem, and etc etc. You will find that if you actually consider what you are looking for in an audience that you can then gauge your personal tag searching to fit who you will most likely connect with.
I encourage bloggers to remember that even though someone publishes and hosts a cooking blog they may still like poetry. Artists may follow fashion blogs and connections can definitely be made “across niches.” Don’t get drawn into that garbage where you start to find you have segregated yourself away from WordPress as a whole. There is not “One Community” here on WordPress, there are hundreds of thousands of communities and millions of active bloggers. They are all here tagging posts and adding them to the ever flowing river of posts that is WordPress and everyone is looking for new connections.
Knowing what is trending on WordPress is common sense. Obviously some of the general tags are ALWAYS trending such as art, fashion, writing, personal, poetry, photography, blog, and about me these tags are always being added to. The tags that are also trending are “trending” because they are fueled by human interest. So because you as a blogger are human you should know what is currently going on in the world. Has someone been shot, is someone going to war, did aliens just appear, did a celebrity say something they shouldn’t have, was there a natural disaster, what month is it, and is a holiday going on are all good things to consider. Those are going to be hot tags because they are being actively used due to current events. Think real world and project that into the virtual.
I always encourage people to own their tag. You can create a “tag” for yourself and I currently add my posts to Opinionated Man and HarsH ReaLiTy tags. Not every post gets tagged this, but I make it a point to routinely add one to keep the tags active. Others can add to these as well, but the frequency to which you add to one particular, unique tag will show ownership due to who the reader sees. I think that is important especially for brand recognition and who knows that better than authors with their titles? The same can be said for other bloggers and their platforms as well, own your name if you can.
Tags can serve as SEO hooks but the level of this is not very clear. You would need to ask an expert on that, I have my theories. They are recognized through search though on external platforms.
Some people also use tagging for internal use. You can study what “tags” of yours are being looked at, but I don’t find that data to be as effective or productive as using that energy to self-promote. But that is just me. That is the basics, other than the whole “no more than 15 tags rule” and categories serve as a “tag” in that 15. I probably left something out though because I am watching Tom and Jerry with my daughter.